On November 19, 1971 Chris Burden created an unforgettable reputation for himself when he was the target in a shocking performance piece that consisted of Burden voluntarily getting shot in the arm. From about fifteen feet apart, Burden was shot with a fully loaded .22 caliber long rifle in the middle of a crowded room of disturbed onlookers at a Southern California art gallery. Following was a media firestorm and an obvious psychic evaluation on Burden who suffered more serious injuries than anticipated.
When asked years later why he subjected himself to such a dangerous act, Burden responded “I wanted to be taken seriously as an artist.” His performance was serious as it made a statement that ignited heated debate over the Vietnam War and the right to bear firearms in the United States. Burden proceeded to take part in numerous performances in the 1970’s that all toyed with the idea of using personal danger as a vehicle of artistic expression.